In what had the potential to be a ‘banana-peel’-fixture, City were able to hold off a late surge by Marconi Stallions to progress through to the quarter-final stage of the FFA Cup, winning the game 2-1 on a blustery night at Marconi Stadium.
Erick Mombaerts named a full-strength lineup, answering our queries about midfield selections by giving Connor Metcalfe another starting berth alongside Josh Brillante, whilst also electing to go with Adrián Luna over Florin Berenguer as the more attacking option of the trio.
City got off to a flying start, scoring the first goal of the match within just 90 seconds, and in very tactically-satisfying fashion:
Following a sloppy turnover by Cabrera high on our attacking right wing, it took just four seconds for the City boys to counterpress and for Scott Gallloway to successfully recover possession, immediately sending in a well-weighted cross for Jamie Maclaren to head across the keeper from the six-yard box – his fifth goal in as many games.
The early stages of the match were marred by strong winds blowing towards the broadcast side of the ground, which severely affected the potency of aerial balls from either team, and which saw the majority of play take place on City’s right flank; Galloway and Delbridge were forced to work overtime defensively, whilst Cabrera seemed to constantly be our attacking outlet for the first fifteen-odd minutes.
The game went stale for a solid period after that, only sparked into life again by a moment of true CFG-philosophy football in the 39th minute. Starting from a free-kick awarded in our defensive penalty area, an admittedly excellent Bouzanis long ball found Galloway just past halfway, with the fullback chesting the ball down for Luna. The Uruguayan charged forward before passing to a lively Connor Metcalfe whose first time shot at the edge of the box was met with an incredible diving save by Nedad Vekić – the ball went end-to-end in ten seconds.
Craig Noone found himself on the scoresheet in the 44th with yet ANOTHER goal from outside the box following a failed Marconi clearance which was recycled back into a good area for the final shot by Adrián Luna and Connor Metcalfe, the latter of whom was credited with the assist.
Denis Genreau and Florin Berengeur came on at half-time, replacing Josh Brillante and Adrián Luna respectively.
The early parts of the second half played out much like the mostly stale first period, with neither team demonstrating any great deal of attacking fluency or overall quality.
There were still a few chances for either team throughout, including a brilliant line-splitting through ball in the 71st by Metcalfe for Cabrera which lead to a great opportunity on the right, but the winger was found to have been offside, later being replaced by Lachie Wales in the 79th.
Short-corners and playing out from the back seemed to be themes of City’s play, with the latter proving dangerous on several occasions throughout the second half, including Marconi’s 85th minute consolation goal which was brought about by a lazy turnover by Genreau in a key defensive position. Connor Metcalfe had a chance to recover it at the edge of the box, but the ball ended up at the feet of Stallions substitute Martin Fernandez, who produced a mesmeric chip to leave Bouzanis helpless as the ball sailed into the back of the net.
There were several heart-stopping moments as we fought to see out the rest of the game, including a brilliant 92nd minute save by Dean Bouzanis who dived to his left to keep City’s lead secure until the final whistle.
Overall, it was probably a substandard performance in which it never really looked like we got going right across the park, but this is hardly the first time an A-League team has disappointed against NPL opposition.
Connor Metcalfe continues to put in strong performances worthy of A-League starts, Craig Noone looks like an incredible signing already and Jamie Maclaren’s pre-season form thus far has been VERY promising.
Onwards we go to the Quarters…
Final score: Marconi 1-2 City
⚽️ 2' Maclaren
⚽️ 44' Noone